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The Triangle's picture

The disengaging...  

the short:  I have been with dh and ss since ss was 5.5.  He is now turning 15.  Since day 1 bm has had a hatred like you would not believe.  She and I have had several run ins when we lived in the same state and she def is very 2 faced.  "So glad we're a team" all the while force feeding ss the "your dad married her not you". "You don't have to listen to her" etc.  

bm is a pos.  She is 36 ish and still lives in the basement of her emotionally abusive parents and has visitation with BOTH her children.  Her daughter's are supervised dues to abuse.  

We have fought court battles and dealt with ss lying, cheating, stealing, etc.  we moved states away so ss could grow up around dh's fam since dh has custody.  Ss has / had appeared to settle in nicely.  We all were communicating, including bm.  Now I do not trust her as far as I can throw her but, it is for the betterment of ss so I can be the bigger person.

After MANY ups and downs and enough crazy and hate to last a lifetime,  I am over it. My father passed about a year ago and something in me switched.  I no longer felt that I had the energy to give to fight this fight.  Ss is about to be 15 and soon to drive.  He can certainly decide whether or not to be a prick to me?!

So, last summer I let both bm and dh know that I would no longer tolerate such behavior.  That I would not sugar coat with ss anymore and would do as I see fit.  Example:  ss does not want to use his phone properly?  I took his phone.  Bm can not say anything because she barely pays cs, dh agreed with my decision.  The end.  Or so I thought.

BM and I had words for the last time last week.  I have sense blocked her and her family from any form of contact.  Dh stood up for me and let bm know that all dealings wiill be with him and she knows how much she enjoys that.  Let her know that it is unacceptable for her to speak to me how ever she wants and that he agreed that ss should show me respect while in our HOME.

This to me is GREAT!  Finally!!! Here's the dilemma.  Ss is gone for 6 weeks over the summer.  I have no desire to hear stories or whatever about how good or bad his trip is.  I listen but do not engage in the convo with dh.  My confusion is when ss comes back!  I have no problem going on about my marry way and not giving a crap that ss is even home.  I just wonder how toxic this will be for my marriage?  It breaks my heart to know that dh has to now know our house is divided because of HIS son and BM.  It is one thing while ss is not here but again, he is literally gone 8/9 weeks out of a YEAR!  He is ALWAYS around.  Which I know is better for him because bm is toxic but what about ME /US?  


Now I can not speak on behalf of dh on how he will take the separation between me and ss because it has not really happened before.  I guess what I am really after is a: Does anyone have any input on how disengaging works when ss is with you full time?  I am having a really hard time with "a house divided".  I know all situations are unique, I just can't see this playing out! 


Evil3's picture

I had to disengage from my SDstb29 when she was about 15 and my SS26 was 13. I actually managed to disengage from one SK, but not the other. At that time, both SKs were living with me full time. I believe that you teach people how to treat you and my SD was pure evil and trying with all her might to be me thrown out of the house by my DH. DH and I have an "ours" DD18, who was little at the time also. It's actually doable to disengage from a SK who is living with you, especially if they are a teen. Disengagement is like finger prints. It's different for everyone, so you will work out what works best for you. You will make mistakes and that's OK. It's all a matter of figuring out what works for you and what doesn't. So, in your case, I'm thinking that you can just go about your merry way and don't require yourself to stay home or have "family time" and all that jazz. If you want to enroll in that cool class you've been thinking about for years, or you want to meet up with the girls for dinner and drinks, then go do it. Go to the gym, take up a martial art, hell, take up nose-picking and basket weaving. Have a blast trying new things and engaging in previously enjoyed passions. Stop paying for anything for your SS. He's not your responsibility, so you shouldn't have to pay a damn thing. Let his parents work out payment for his phone. Do not cook for him, do not clean up after him, do not drive him anywhere. Do not buy anything for him, not even grocery items that he inhales (sorry to assume). Just live like he doesn't exist. If at some point, you feel like doing something for the sake of supporting your DH, like giving your SS a ride if your DH is busy, but really wants your SS to be somewhere, then fine, you can give it a shot. If your DH is failing to defend you and require his son to respect you and pulling the bullsh*t about being stuck in the middle, then to hell with your DH too. You can revoke any and all favours around care for his brat since you are not a door mat and your own DH has failed to protect you. Search on here for the Disengagement Essay and read it at least ten times. Just reading it is liberating. There are some words in it that were quite cathartic for me. Enjoy your disengagement and your newfound freedom and liberation.

Evil3's picture

Sorry, I responded too soon. I should have read your post more thoroughly. Don't worry about your DH and what he thinks of your disengagement. Mine actually gave me his blessing. When I disengaged from my SD, my DH was actually helping me get back into distance running and would be the first one to alert me to runs and then make arrangements to look after our DD while I went away for some events on some weekends. My DH was trying to be supportive of me, because he didn't want to end up divorced again. I'm sure your DH doesn't want to lose you either. He'll understand and accept your disengagement. It's unfortunate that a family has to become divided, but my DH relented and said it is what it is. It sounds like your DH doesn't blame you. Disengagement doesn't mean being nasty to your SS, so I wouldn't worry about it. By disengaging, you're helping to reduce any conflict. You're doing the right thing by listening to your DH without really engaging. That's all I did. I would just throw in the odd grunt or hmmmm and leave it at that and sometimes abruptly change the subject. 

The Triangle's picture

i will look up the essay!  And yes, dh seems to get my side which is all I can ask for.  I get his side too.  I guess I needed to have this last conflict to officially feel no quilt on my end.  It was different when ss was little but now if he sucks it's on him!  If he starves it's on him. (Meaning he is not a baby) If he lies it's on him.  If he chooses to go to the dark side it is on him.  It is unfortunate that dh and bm had a child.  She truly is a horrible person that should not be responsible for ANY other life.  Ss can choose to follow in her foot steps and live in the basement with mommy or heck I don't put it passed her to suggest "they" get a place when he is 18.  Not my monkey or circus.  As long as dh can handle it.  I believe we have done our best and have lead the way time and time again.  We are not perfect but anything done was out of love and not hate.  In the end that is all you can do I suppose! 

Areyou's picture

With disengagement you do your own thing, let them do their own thing. You aren't in  a parenting role anymore, but you are still human so you get to express your opinion and ask them to get out of your way, but you don't need to discipline or do anything for them anymore. You have no obligation to them anymore. 

Rags's picture

While I am not a proponant of disengagement as a viable management tool in blended family marriages I would say that the way to apply it is different in any situation.

I would suggest that  you not disengage from your SO or the Skid when the Skid is in your home.  Rather I would post clearly defined behavioral and performance standards that will be applied in your home and enforce those standards.  Zero tolerance for deviation from those standards and apply adequate levels of age appropriate abject misery when SS deviates from the standards you set.

This does not have to be toxic to your marriage. In fact it sounds to me that your DH is both supportive of you and reasonable in working with  you.  The lynch pin to success, or at least it was for us, is that if DH does not like how you parent and discipline he can step up and get it done before  you have to.  Or ... he can bite his tonge and  have your back.

Beyond enforcing the standards there is little reason for you to interface with SS.  But note... you may find that as you set boundaries and enforce them the SS may just engage with you since he will be living a life of misery if he violates  your standards.  It is funny how enforcing standards for children drives appropirate behavior in those children.

The Triangle's picture

I am on the forum today because I was going to look for a post about how to handle when a skid tries to alter the disengagement.  For instance, ss has been at bm's for 2 weeks tomorrow.  I have not spoke to him or really of him.  Dh has not spoken of him and I have not asked... out of nowhere ss14.5 text me "hey ------".  I did not reply.  Not out of aggression, not out of proving a point, out of I don't want to!  I understand the Day and age in which we live.  I believe in interpersonal relationships.  I am a phone talker, a post card sender, a ladies luncheon type of gal.  I have been this way the entire time skid has known me.  Moral of the story is I am not having this conversation via text.  I am not bm who texts you, I am not like some of your friends parents who find it appropriate to respond to you when you text.  I am me.  I am not deviating from the plan.  I decided to not have my own children.  I hold no misguided guilt because bm decided way late in the game.  If ss wants to communicate with me,  he has to do more than send a "hey" and my name text! Boundaries.  


He will be an adult soon, relatively speaking.

Java_Junkie's picture

Remember, THIS is YOUR disengagement. YOU set the terms. It is truly SETTING BOUNDARIES. Grab a "Boundaries With Teens" book - all of them in the series are great, but this one seems more applicable to your sitch - and keep it in mind.

Think about the reason you're disengaging... each of us have different reasons.

For me, it's been DW not teaching her kids manners when they were young, and NOW, they're teens with crappy manners. I'd get aggravated when SS and SD would interrupt in the rudest ways while DW and I were talking, and so I started correcting them (which caused problems with DW, who thinks she's supermom). So when they'd interrupt and she'd start talking to them instead of me, I'd just stop talking and walk away. DW thought I was being rude, so I said it was clearly not an important conversation to her so I chose to go do something else where I wasn't wasting her time. So she started stopping her kids for a while when they'd interrupt, but AS ALWAYS, these kids don't take her too seriously and it crept back...

OK, so I selectively disengaged by modulating it based on how they'd been treating me... It worked a while, but now they're both *being teens* and as disrespectful as they are of DW now, it makes me mad to see them treat her badly, but'cha know what? She set herself up for that. As for me? I don't owe either of them a darn thing, and I've now said to DW that that's precisely what they'll be getting. Nothing nice, nothing extra, nothing special, no favors, nada... I told her I've had it with them, coming up on 4 years of cooking food they hate, buying them things they don't appreciate, taking them to school on rainy days only to have them just jump out of the car and not thank me, agreeing to let their friends sleep over when I'm doing chores while they are playing and not doing anything, helping clear the table and do the dishes so they can go to their rooms and play after dinner, and lots and lots more... Super entitled punks.

I can't make them stop...

But I can sure as Hell control what I do, and I will not reward that junk. Brats don't get breaks.